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A few months ago, I wrote about the decline of the vocational evangelist and made a few suggestions about what the future of vocational evangelism might look like.

Today, I’d like to share a few thoughts on personal evangelism, particularly the tools being developed to assist Christians in this task.

The Problem with Traditional Evangelistic Tools

In previous generations, tools like the Four Spiritual Laws and Evangelism Explosion dominated the field of personal evangelism. These tools have been effective for many people, and we can be grateful that the Lord continues to use these methods. But now that our society has moved in a direction that is increasingly post-Christian, these methods have begun to show their age.

Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume. These methods assume that the lost person already has a basic amount of Bible knowledge. The presentation makes little sense unless presented within a religious framework in which the character of God is largely understood, the nature of sin is acknowledged, and the need for forgiveness is felt.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in a world in which people understand these truths.

The Romans Road

Take the Romans Road for example. As good as the Romans Road is (I’ve used it on many occasions, and it is Scripture after all!), the presentation usually begins with Romans 3:23 (All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), before moving on to sin’s penalty (6:23), God’s intervention (5:8), and our response (10:9-10, 13). Surely one can’t argue against the Bible as a gospel presentation.

But the problem with the Romans Road is that even Romans doesn’t begin with Romans 3:23. In Romans 1, Paul speaks of the character of God and the devastation of human rebellion. Romans 2 indicts all of us – Jew and Gentile alike. Romans 3 underscores the depravity of human nature.

In other words, even the Romans Road (at least as it is popularly used) makes sense only within an overarching narrative that is Scriptural. The presentation assumes that people know who God is, what God demands, who we are, what our problem is, and how God has acted in history to bring restoration.

The deficiency of the Romans Road is not the verses of Scripture, but the disappearance of the framework in which these verses make sense. When the people around us no longer hold to a biblical framework from which to make sense of these truths, the Romans Road turns into a series of cobbled-together propositions that are disconnected from the Story of Scripture.

Evangelists today are looking for ways to hold together the propositional truth claims of Scripture and the Grand Narrative within which these claims find their meaning. Tomorrow, I’ll review three of these presentations, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Related Posts:
In Defense of Proselytism: Talking Points for Brit Hume
Walking and Talking Evangelism
I’m Afraid to Share My Faith

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10 thoughts on “Assuming Too Much in Personal Evangelism”

  1. Greg says:

    This is why we are going to be doing evangelism training this summer in our church using the “Two Ways to Live” method by Matthias Media. This is recommended by Don Carson specifically because it addresses the issues you raise. It places the gospel in a framework where sin and salvation make more sense in a postmodern, post-Christian world.

  2. J. K. Jones says:

    So is there an adequate method?

  3. Dan Sudfeld says:

    I’ll look forward to tomorrow. I obviously don’t know which three presentations you’ll be looking at, but I’ve been evaluating both Two Ways to Live and Way of the Master in recent days. Both presentations have strengths and weaknesses. But we can be thankful that God continues to raise up people to think about and develop tools to aid in personal evangelism in this age.

  4. Josh R says:

    Seems to me that Romans 1 is a pretty good place to start. We live in a relativistic, post modern culture – and the relativism is actually the core Sin.

    There is a reality that God made, and we see it, but don’t like the implications of that reality, so we delude ourselves into believing in a reality of our own making. I do think that Romans 1 is right, and God has planted the law on every heart — Atheists beg to half grant this point when arguing for atheistic morality.

    The problem with our own realities is that they periodically bump into the real reality, and we know in our heart of hearts that our existential facade is composed lies created to justify whatever behavior we want to justify.

    Lies always die and truth always resurrects.

  5. Dan Sudfeld says:

    Forget to close the italics. Sorry.

  6. Trevin Wax says:

    Hi J.K.,

    I’ve got a couple of methods that I will be recommending tomorrow. They seek to present the gospel truths within the context of the gospel story. Stay tuned!

  7. Don Sunshine says:

    I agree with a lot of what you said. I teach a “lifestyle evangelism” course called M.A.D. (Make a Difference) all over the US. God has used to change thousands of lives. It is based on Ron Hutchcraft’s book, “A Life that Matters”. In his book, Ron talks about the need to share the gospel with the lost without using “Christianese” (Biblical language of Christians) that people don’t understand because they’ve never been in church. I teach people to share Christ with the people that God brings into our lives every day in a way that everyone can understand.

  8. I think it’s great that you are taking the time to assess the different methods of personal evangelism. One thing I think is key in opening up God’s message to non-believers is to connect with what you have personally experienced or what they are going through. I’m curious to read more about the various methods you review.

  9. sp says:

    i am so sick of methods

  10. Tom Drion says:

    Thanks for this – helpful analysis.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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